I woke up early to take the metro train to where I would pick up my rental car. I got a brand of car I had never heard of, but it seemed to be popular in Spain. I loved being back in the drivers seat of a car! It was nice to sit, listen to music and enjoy a solitary drive. The drive was beautiful through the country side! Rolling hills, flowers, and occasionally a castle on the top of a hill. I enjoyed picturing that I was in Game of Thrones traveling through the Targaryen lands (that would be regionally accurate).
I joined the walking tour again today since yesterday’s was so great. It was in a different area too, called Graçia. We visited more of Gaudí’s work such as La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, which was equally impressive and always had interesting facts behind it. We also walked along the Passeig de Graçia (full of all of the fancy shopping) and learned the history behind it as well. Our guide, Alberto, would often have us act out scenes that took place in history which made it fun. He also compared historical figures to who they might be like today, for example, one family was so wealthy, pretty and popular that they would have been the Kardashians of back then.
Next, we went inside the “chocolate house” which looked nothing like chocolate, but they made it there. Along the way he pointed out the requirements to build during the Catalan Art Nouveau (modernism) which were including: nature, color and iron. These houses definitely stood out from the others, and one of them was even decorated in roses in preparation for Sant Jordi day where women get a rose and men get a book (ahhh the pre-tinder days, so romantic)…I leave that day 😦
Lastly, we went to an old theater which was converted into a couple restaurants, the design of it was super trendy, yet included many antiques, including the original bathroom.
While everything is interesting and beautiful to look at, understanding the reasoning behind them is so much better. After the tour ended, I went and did my inside tour of the Segrada Familia (did you know that Darth Vaders helmet was inspired by the helmets used on the soldiers on this church?). I did the audio portion which was not only informative, but set to music and made the experience so much more emotional and impactful.
I rested for a bit before heading over to the coast to check out the beach. I stopped for dinner (a salad, finally) and then met up with Wilbert and Joris to watch a Castell being built (human tower). We circled around trying to find it when we realized that it was indoors and a private, media only event. Instead, we walked to the beach and sat with some wine until the sun went down and it was too cold to stay any longer. The group was going to eat at La Pepita, but by the time I made it back to the hostel I was too tired to go out again and not hungry anyway.
I landed in Barcelona and took the metro to my hostel which was super easy. I really like the area I’m in and my first impression is that I like Barcelona better than Madrid. I dropped my bags off and actually went to go find a manicure because my nails were awful (I peeled the polish off while waiting for my bag to come out, it was last.. I walked around some more and then came back to join the communal dinner. I sat with a guy from Belgium, another from Holland and a girl from New York. After dinner we continued to play cards with some others before we all went on the night tour (a fancy way of saying bar crawl). I enjoyed the group I was with, but I didn’t really like the first bar. The second one was okay because we could play foosball, and the third we skipped out on because we were tired and had a big day tomorrow. My favorite question of the night was from Joris, who asked why so many of the girls were just wearing big bras out (they had crop tops on). LOL. Before going home, we stopped at McDonalds because Danielle compares McDonalds in every country she visits. We had fun hearing the Dutch say hamburger and laughing at drunk people trying to get into the bathroom that needed a code.
This morning I met the Australians and my new roommate from China for breakfast (the hostel breakfast was decent, cheap and mostly easy, but I really wish it had eggs). Orignally, the group from yesterday was going to do Toledo today, but everyone kind of decided against it and instead we made plans to meet up at Buen Retiro Park.
I knew the park was huge, but I didn’t expect it to be SO huge. I could have been lost (good lost) in there for days. It also was well maintained and clean. We basically just took a slow pace stroll around the park. Stopping at the lake to watch people paddle boat, stopping for a cafe, stopping to look at beautiful greenery, stopping at the crystal palace (not impressed) and then stopping at what was my favorite part…the park with peacocks!!
The peacocks were everyone and roamed around freely! We spent the next 30 minutes there taking pictures of them (and the baby ducks) leveraging Michaels iPhone with portrait mode. Finally, we made our way out and then I discovered my next favorite place, a road lined with little vendors selling used books. They were mostly in Spanish, but I still could have browsed through for hours.
Yet, we were starving so kept going trying to find the Mercado. The local one was closed, so we went to the touristy one. I was not disappointed! It was like being at a food and wine festival, a building filled with booths of small tastes of the most delicious bites to eat and beverages to go alongside. I started with a Vermouth on the rocks and some olives. Next, had a bread topped with soft cheese, pesto and tomato. Then, a mushroom fritter. Finally, more bread and cheese paired with red wine. We surprisingly were full so we called that lunch (it was 3:30pm by now) and then walked back to relax in our hostels.
A few of us decided to do one final dinner all together. We tried to go to this cool rooftop, but it was full. Instead we walked around until we found this cool street food place. It was a big space with lots of different asian food booths inside and long tables to sit at. I had my favorite, pad thai! I was so hungry at that point, it was 9pm that I also split some marinated tofu. We talked about interesting fruit we’ve eaten (as we stuff our faces with fried noodles) and whether or not we wanted drinks. Surprisingly we couldn’t find any room for drinks or dessert so we said our final goodbyes and parted ways.
I signed up for the walking tour this morning because I did still want to meet people and because I wanted to learn more about the city, since I’ve just been observing. We had a large group, 17 of us, from 3 different hostels. I really enjoyed the walking tour and learning how how Sangria, Tapas and other cultural things began. It was also really nice to walk and talk with the others in my group. I didn’t really click with the people from the first night, but this group had some very awesome people. It was a mix of Americans, Australians, Canadians, Mexicans, a Grecian and a Columbian.
I had a continental breakfast at the hostel where I ran into someone from the first night. We decided to check out the Sunday Flea Market, El Gastro Flea Market. It took over the streets and drew a huge crowd. It had a lot of vintage clothes and other souvenir type things. It was fun to look around, but neither of us bought anything. There is something about going to a local flea market or farmers market that really makes you feel part of community. I planned on doing the walking tour afterwards, but when they say it’s everyday, that doesn’t include Sunday lol.
I left on Thursday and arrived in Spain on Friday. The good news was that I slept 7 of the 10 hours on the flight. After dropping my bags off at the hostel, I walked around a bit to get my bearings and to stop for coffee. I signed up for the dinner option at the hostel as a way to meet people. In true Spanish fashion, dinner wasn’t until 9pm. I had plenty of time to walk around some more and shower. My first impression of Madrid was that it is a big city, with lots of winding streets and people out and about.