Spain offers the ultimate combination of a legendary parties, festivals, vibrant night-life, breath-taking beaches and landscape, and cities- replete with varied culture, architecture and cuisines. The country is all about exploring one village at a time and each of these have a unique story to tell.
Places Visited include:
Spain: Paris-> Barcelona -> Costa Brava -> Valencia -> Granada -> Seville
Portugal: Lagos -> Lisbon. Some of the other places to experience include Faro, Porto and Sintra in Portugal, depending on one’s interests.
Travel: We took the rail-route from Paris to Barcelona-Sants station. For those travelling with the Eurail Pass- intercity trains in Spain require a reservation and need to be booked in advance. The rail was my preferred mode of travel across cities and the bus to commute from Spain to Portugal.
Portugal is the place for sea-food enthusiasts. As a bibliophile, visiting the world’s oldest book-store here will always remain special.
There is no dearth of shopping options that go easy on pockets as well. Do try out the paella, tortilla Española, tapas and sangria. These local cuisines vary widely across the length and breadth of the land and recipes of some of the dishes date back to the Roman times as well.
It is these few days of travel that have given me a multitude of reasons for absolutely loving this place. To remember my unusual start to this trip, I have saved the FIR lodged at Barcelona as a souvenir ;)
Barcelona is notorious for pick-pockets and this is something I realized the hard way, in spite of being pre-warned and exercising all caution. So, my trip started with spending half a day lodging a complaint at the police station! We parked our luggage at Kabul hostel and headed off to explore the La Rambla street- a lively promenade that offers a multitude of food and shopping options. The boulevard is best experienced in the evenings afoot, when it is all lighted up and filled with street artists and performers. Do explore the markets adjacent to the street- they are pretty cost-effective and extremely colourful. There are free walking tours, for which bookings can be done online and it is one of the most convenient ways to get a head-start on understanding the history, culture, architecture or experience the local flavours. Some of the places to visit/experience that can be covered include: Picasso museum, glass makers street, Cultural Centre in El born district, Ajuntament de Barcelona-the political heart of the city, Sagrada Familia, Mulberry Cemetery, Cathedral Barcelona, Santa Marina del mar church, Camp Nou, the Gothic quarter, Plaça del Rei, Park Güell, Plaça nova
The city-squares are surrounded by buildings of modern and medieval architecture. These are very lively and often crowded. Some host an antique market and sometimes, one can share a move with the traditional Catalan dancers here. Day 3 was the trek up Mt.Tibidabo (courtesy Joey’s stories in Friends). It is almost a half-day uphill trek, through less trodden precarious paths amidst the jungles. But, the panoramic view of the entire city and the sea in the horizon makes it completely worth the sweat. Montjuic is another less-challenging trek and road uphill flaunts multiple attractions like the Olympic stadium, Miro Museum, amongst a few others.
For the ultimate beach experience, Costa Brava is the place - absolutely unspoilt in parts, while beautifully manicured in others. It is almost a 3+hour journey from Barcelona. Do plan your travel well as per the schedule of the connecting trains/buses. This is particularly commercialized offering a myriad of options for stay, food and adventure-sports. However, beaches further down south offer equally magnificent views, at a fraction of the price.
We took a self-guided walking tour of Valencia, for which itineraries and maps are easily available. Most of the attractions can be well covered on foot. It has a unique mix from medieval to modernist architecture, with massive shopping complexes along the wide, tree-lined streets. There are long, wide stretches of beaches which have not been commercialized yet. However, this city definitely deserves more than one day.
I opted for a walking tour and this was by far, one of the best in Europe. Al Hambra could be a half to a full-day trip. Evenings were occupied with flamenco performance at the Sacromonte Caves, followed by pampering our taste buds at the tapas bars.
Next day we headed to Seville, the youthful capital of the Andalusia region. The tour of the bull fight arena is a must-experience. Like it is said, there is a celebration every day in Andalucia. And to our luck, we got to attend the ongoing global cuisine fair. There are sky-diving options here, which are more expensive as compared to other options in Europe, but well worth the experience.
Travel: Buses are the only option to travel from Seville to Lagos, which offer student discounts. Lagos has some of the most amazingly beautiful beaches and offers a wide array of water-sports- that got us all enticed that we extended our stay to experience them all! The local folks are extremely amiable and particularly helpful who don’t mind going the extra mile to assist tourists.
The last stop was Lisbon. I opted for the Sandeman’s walking tour, which takes you through the streets, while narrating about the literature, architecture, destruction of city during the 1755 earthquake and its revival from the ashes.