Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spain!

Ahh Spain, this is going to be a fun one to write because, well, you were just that... fun! And a million other things I might add. When I think of Spain I think of life. You had so so so much life to you, and the energy of your cities never let me forget that. I think that if any country knows what it means to be so utterly alive, it is hands down Spain.

Being in Spain, I couldn't help but be happy. Even though Spain represented the end of my journey, and that made me sad, I still felt an overwhelming sense of happiness. Maybe it was because I couldnt' help but be so grateful to be ending my trip in such an amazing country, or maybe it's because you can't help but feel the amazing energy that Barcelona and Madrid give off.  I think it was a little bit of both, and either way, my heart was so very happy.

I'm recapping (for one last time) how I spent my time in the wonderful cities of Barcelona and Madrid.  I hope you not only enjoy this, but I hope you have enjoyed all of my travel posts. Thank you for letting me relive one of the best months of my life. It brought me so much happiness and I hope it did the same for you. Even more importantly, I hope it has inspired you to get out there and see the world. I promise you it is one of the most important, and worthwhile things you can do for yourself, and not to mention it is a hell of a good time. I have one final post coming Thursday that will wrap up my trip to Europe, but for now enjoy my adventure in España. Adiós!


BARCELONA





Barcelona was the kickoff to our week in Spain, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Spain was one of those places I visited that, like London, I was looking forward to exploring, but that I had never been dying to visit, and yet, just like London, completely blew me away. In three short days, I was in love with everything Barcelona had to offer - from the weather, to the vibrant energy, the food, the music, the architecture, the people - I could go on and on.

We arrived in Barcelona in the late afternoon, which gave us just enough time to settle into our hostel before heading out to explore and grab a bite to eat. The hostel was amazing - probably the nicest accommodation we had on our entire trip, and we had quite a few nice ones along the way. It was the first hostel that didn't have bunk beds (yay!), was extremely spacious, had a pretty updated bathroom, and was very well decorated, which I think was my favorite part. It's called the Casa Gracia and is located right on the Passeig de Gràcia - definitely worth checking out if you are ever headed to Barcelona! After we were settled in to the hostel, we took the metro a few stops down to Plaça de Catalunya, where our tour director then showed us around the area. Our timing was just perfect, because it was the last day of the Festival de la Mercè, so we got to walk through the streets as live music played, and people celebrated with dancing. At this point, the weather was a bit stormy and the sky was about to open up, so we headed indoors to grab dinner. We ate at this super yummy tapas restaurant where you got to go up and serve yourself - which is perfect because you can either have one or two tapas or ten if you're really feeling ambitious! We ended the night by sitting outside and sharing a couple bottles of Cava (Spanish champagne) before heading back to the hostel for the night.

The next day we took a guided tour around the city, which showed us the many highlights of Barcelona. We got to walk around parc Güell, which showcased all of Gaudi's famous architecture - a style that can be seen all around Barcelona. The park is set up on a hill that overlooks all of Barcelona, which provided some of the best views of the city. Next we saw Gaudi's cathedral, the Sagrada Família, which still isn't done, but was magnificent and incredible. It will be done in ten years, which sounds like the perfect excuse to book a trip back to Barcelona! To finish up the tour, we drove through the streets of Barcelona, checking out the Passseig de Gràcia, the best shopping in Barcelona. It is basically the Fifth Avenue of the city! We wrapped up the tour by driving through where the 1992 Barcelona took place, which put us near the coast and allowed for picturesque views of both Barcelona and the Mediterranean. We all definitely worked up an appetite touring the city, so we headed to a restaurant right in the Marina for a traditional Spanish meal. It included everything from patatas bravas, seafood paella, pan con tomate, crema catalana (Spanish crème brûlée), and of course pitchers of sangria (!!). It was all SO good - my mouth is watering as I write this. Myself and everyone else was beyond full, and although a nice nap would have been pretty perfect at this point, we decided to shop the rest of the afternoon away. The shopping in Barcelona, and in Spain in general, is amazing. It was hands down the best shopping of the entire trip.

Between the huge meal at lunch and an afternoon full of shopping, a nap was in order before going out for the night. Barcelona's nightlife was something I had heard really good things about and I was super excited to check it out and enjoy one of our last nights out on the trip. We started out by going to a bar called the Dow Jones, where the drink prices fluctuate depending on their demand and what people are ordering. It was a super fun place with a laid back atmosphere, and what made it even better was that almost everyone from our tour was there. We stayed a while before heading out to an Irish pub (ironic, I know), which honestly reminded me more of a college frat party than anything else, but was a really fun time. To end the night (or begin the next day..) we went to a club and literally danced the night away. The clubs in Barcelona (and Madrid) are no joke - they don't open until around midnight and then close at about six am - and we literally danced until about five in the morning. It was a blast. Let's just say that the nightlife in Barcelona did not disappoint one bit!

Needless to say we slept the good majority of the next day away, and after waking up around noon, we decided to head to the beach to check it out. The beach was beautiful, as was the Mediterranean, and it was the perfect afternoon spent relaxing. What amazed me even more though was that the beach was literally right there in a city so alive and bustling. Barcelona is literally the best of both worlds - city and sea - which are two of my most favorite things. Even more reason for me to love Barcelona so much! We ended our last day in Barcelona by going to a traditional tapas bar, called Sol Soler, for dinner, which did not disappoint - so delicious. The cherry on top of the night was getting Nutella filled churros (yup..) on our way back to the hostel. It was perfection, and I went to bed that night so very happy and content (and full).

MADRID






Madrid was the last stop on my thirty day adventure, so it goes without saying that it was very bittersweet to reach this destination. We took the high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid, which was the nicest train I've ever been on, and arrived to the city around mid-afternoon. Our hostel, called The Hat, was also an amazing hostel, and one I would again recommend if you are in Spain! The first night we hung around the hostel for a while before venturing out to find something for dinner. If I'm being completely honest, I was a little bit disappointed with my first impression of Madrid. In cities prior to Madrid it had been super easy to find good restaurants just by walking through the streets, and my friends and I had a really hard time with this that first night! I think it was our own error and we may have just chose the wrong direction to head in, which resulted in us wandering through not the greatest neighborhoods with no restaurants in sight. Eventually after roaming around for a while we found a cozy little place to eat outside in a square and it ended up being perfect. Finding it was just another adventure! We went to bed that night hoping that in the next two days, Madrid would impress us a little bit more, and I can say now that it certainly did. 

The second day we had a guided bus tour around the city, which showed us the direction we should have headed in the night before for dinner and also all the major attractions of Madrid. It really is a beautiful city like many of the cities on the trip had been. We also had a tour through the Reina Sofia museum, where we got to see many of the famous works of modern art by artists such as Picasso and Dalí. This trip to the museum was so great because having someone explain to you what you were looking at made all the difference! After the museum we grabbed a bite to eat, at the same place we stumbled up the night before, and ate a delicious lunch of patatas bravas and the best sangria. To work off our lunch we decided to again go shopping - it was so hard not to when the shopping was so amazing! As I mentioned before Spain had the best shopping and it was because not only did they have so many amazing stores, but the stores sold the cutest things at prices that didnt' break the bank at all. I told myself the entire trip that I wasn't going to buy anything that I could get back home, aka clothes, but once I got to Spain, I just couldn't resist getting a few things! I bought my new favorite pajamas, the cutest off-the-shoulder top, and another top from Zara that was so me. Not too bad - trust me a whole lot more damage could have been done! 

That night we decided we had to check out the nightlife in Madrid, since in Barcelona it had been so amazing. Madrid's nightlife was pretty amazing too I must say! Spain knows how to have a good time that's for sure. The club we went to in Madrid had seven floors, one of which was rooftop bar, and was the fanciest club I've ever been to. With seven floors to explore it was impossible not to have a good time, and it was the perfect place to have one last night out! 

I must say, my last day in Madrid was not the most eventful by any means, as I spent a good majority of it figuring out how I was going to get all the stuff I brought and all the stuff I bought (including three bottles of wine) home with me without buying another suitcase or going over the weight limit. It was a big challenge to say the least, but I'm happy to report that I successfully got everything home without paying an overweight baggage fee, and more importantly in one piece. Go me!

On my last afternoon in Madrid, a couple girls and I headed over to the Royal Palace of Madrid, which is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. It was beautiful! Most definitely the home of royalty. Just like on our first night, when we had a welcome dinner, we also had a farewell dinner on the last night. It was a time for everyone to be together and enjoy each other's company for one last time, and to celebrate what a wonderful month it had been. The food was of course amazing, as all the food in Spain had been, but my favorite part was just being with my friends. It's amazing how in one short month, people who had been strangers had become the greatest of friends. I honestly wouldn't have wanted to experience the trip with anyone else. After the dinner ended, and I wiped my tears away, a few girls and I headed to a rooftop bar for one last celebratory drink. The bar had the most beautiful views of the city, which was lit up in the night, and we just sat and enjoyed each other's company, while of course reminiscing of our many memories. If I had pictured the perfect place to end my trip in Europe, this would have been it. It truly was the perfect end to the perfect adventure. 


xo. G

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