The Spanish know how to live life. They know that every day is worth celebrating, whether it be your relationships, national holidays, or just being able to sit outside in the sun. My adventure in Spain included a little of all and a whole lot of red wine.
My first taste was in Girona, a small city north of Barcelona. I was planning on meeting my best friend Emily in Barcelona and had a few hours to myself to spare. I haven’t really done any solo traveling before, but I loved my first try. I loved being able to just meander Girona’s streets and marvel at its cathedral. The best part was having a perfectly lovely lunch of coffee and tostada. It’s the most delicious feeling to sit alone and enjoy a coffee in a new country under a flowering tree with petals in your hair knowing you will soon see one of your favorite people in the world.
After a serendipitous reunion in the Barcelona Sants station we headed to our hostel. We both aren’t very accustomed to hostel living, but we eventually settled into our bunk beds and lockers. We took a stroll to the Born area. There we snacked on pintxos, a Basque style of eating that is a mix between a buffet and conveyor belt sushi. You can grab as many bites as you want and pay by the toothpick. We had a lot of catching up to do over our cava. Afterwards we went out with our hostel on a pub crawl (emphasis on crawl) hoping to get a taste of the famed Barça nightlife, but instead ended up at a gringo (Irish) bar. We were fine with this, though, being tired from travel and stumbled home to our hostel early by Spanish measures and obscenely late by American ones.
We had no specific plans for our trip. Thankfully, Barcelona is the perfect place for wandering feet. Our hostel was near the Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadella so we began our explorations there. Inside the park there were many families and couples enjoying the weekend sun. The park houses the parliament building of Catalonia as well as many churches, administrative buildings and even a zoo.
Because we had no real plans, we could really savor the city. We meandered through shops and stopped for food and wine whenever we pleased. We stumbled upon landmarks like the Cathedral of Barcelona serendipitously which filled the day with a sense of curious wonder and surprise. We did get touristy for our last day in the city by visiting the Sagrada Familia and the beach. Though there were huge crowds, it was still enjoyable and relaxing as we settled into the laid-back Spanish lifestyle.
Our next destination was Madrid which we reached via the fantastic Renfe Ave train. The city was celebrating the national holiday Dos de Mayo which commemorates Madrid’s uprising against French forces (similar to Cinco de Mayo for Mexico). We visited the Mercado San Miguel where we admired all of the stunning culinary delights Spain has to offer. We also enjoyed a holiday parade through the Plaza del Sol. Afterwards we lounged the day away like locals- by day drinking in the fitting Plaza de Dos de Mayo.
After the capital we headed to Málaga in Andalusia, a region in southern Spain, and the birthplace of Picasso. The seaside city has a strong art scene and a walkable old town area. It is popular with older tourists which was very apparent at the Picasso Museum there.
The museum is actually pretty great and houses some great pieces donated by the artist’s family. The rest of the trip was a lot more vino tinto, wandering, and romantic meals. I have to thank Emily for making the whole trip amazing. Thank you for putting up with my frequent suggestions to do crazy things (sorry about the oysters) and of course being my translator. For being willing to sip wine all day or walk for miles. I’m already planning our next adventure.
My next country is the United Kingdom to visit more amazing human beings.