Spanish Aventura - May/June '17
My Spanish Adventure
Spain is a place that is ever welcoming to travelers from all over the world. Although known for its great sandy beaches, Spain is waiting to be discovered more, from its ice-capped mountains, green lands, arid zones, historical cities' narrow streets, and grand display of art and architecture.
Good times will surely be experienced with Pamplona's thronged “Running with the Bulls” or during a famous Spaniard's flamenco guitar performance on the side many streets. As a country dominated by Roman Catholics, fiesta celebrations are often anywhere in the country with many merrymaking activities to enjoy. Not to forget, the country offers travelers a variety of great cuisines full of aroma and mouth savoring tastes too. Read on to find some recommendations for the best eateries and restaurants.
Although it wasn't my first time in Spain, it felt like it since I moved to Australlia and didn't have enough time to travel to many European destinations. This time I decided to head to 5 different countries during my trip to Europe. My first stop was Japan (check out my post - The world of Japan'. Spain was my second stop. I flew from Tokyo to Barcelona via Dubai and stayed around 8 days in Spain. My first destination was Barcelona.
Where does name Spain come from?
Iberians were the first people to settle in Spain who were later colonized by the Greeks and Carthaginians. In the 3rd century BC, the Romans ruled. The word Spain originated from the Roman name "Hispania". Spain is the second largest country in Europe, next to France, which is located in an area known as the Iberian Peninsula. This island is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the south to the east, Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Bay of Biscay to the north. Spain is also bounded by the lands of Portugal, France, Andorra, Morocco, and Gibraltar.
Must-see: Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Andalusia, Canary Islands
Among the regions that comprise Spain, there are three great cities which remain at the top of tourists' destination lists: Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. However, Andalucia in the south, the Canary island located near the west coast of Africa, the Balearic Islands in the southeast of Barcelona, and northern Spain, including Castille and Leon, are all frequented in great numbers as well. Also, the Pyrenees are known for some of the best trekking throughout Europe, stretching roughly 400 kilometers, from the Basque Country in the west to the Mediterranean Sea.
The varied landscapes contribute to extreme climate conditions, which are greatly influenced by the Mediterranean sea that borders the country from the south to east. Most areas can be extremely hot during summer and yet very cold during winter. Rainfall occurs irregularly during spring and autumn, and heavy snowfalls are common in winter. Generally it's good to travel during the months of April to early November, while the weather can get unpleasant in July and August.
In general, Spaniards are very friendly and welcoming. Spanish society tends to be always on time. When visiting Spain, it will be very important that you get used to the time zone. It seems like a small thing, but this is the standard in Spain, so refresh those punctuality skills :) People usually have breakfast at 10:00 am, while lunch is at 2:00 pm, and is the largest meal of the day. Dinner is no earlier than 8:00 pm, and it is a very light meal. It is very important for you to remember this, because many restaurants usually close after dinner time. Spanish people don't know English well, so you may want to learn some Spanish before you head to Spain.
Catch a flight from Tokyo Narita to Barcelona via Dubai (If you live in Oz, you will have to fly from Oz to Tokyo first or find some alternative connections). It's around 16.5h flight. After a long journey I finally landed in Barcelona. It wasn't smooth but I enjoy flying with Emirates. It's one of the most comfortable airlines especially if you use business class of A380. Anyway, once I have arrived, I caught a cab to get to my hotel in the centre of Barcelona. I was happy to find a taxi as soon as I got out of the airport. Although the driver didn't speak a word of English, we talked in Spanish and it was amazing. I love Spanish accent and he said my Spanish was great. Anyway, I checked in to Majestic Hotel in a neoclassical building with breathtaking views from the rooftop terrace. What I enjoyed most was the architecture and the number of landmarks situated nearby my hotel. As soon as I checked in, I went to sleep. When I woke up it was 2am at night. I decided to skip dinner and wait till the morning to start my Spanish adventure.
Breakfast in my hotel was delicious. I wish I had someone to share it with though. I don't eat much for breakfast in Oz. I pre-booked some tours and tickets to visit the most popular landmarks. Since there was a taxi strike on my 2nd day here, I had to count on myself to find my way to various locations. Fortunately, I pre-booked a ticket for a sightseeing bus. I spotted it on the street and followed it until I found a bus stop. I decided to get on it and marvel at the beauty of Barcelona's architecture. I am so in love with Barcelona! It's one of the most stunning cities in Europe. After a nice ride, I got off at the nearest spot to Park Guell. I thought it would have been easy to get there but it was really complex. I realized I needed wi-fi and GPS since my ability to find directions is really poor ;( Anyhow, I made it! I finally found Park Guell or at least I thought so. I got to the top of some mountain and found out that it wasn't actual Park Guell but I was not too far from it. I decided to ask a few people who were selling handmade souvenirs on top of that mountain. There were many guys who wanted my number and wanted me to buy their products. I gave in and bought a bracelet made of metal. A piece of junk! He provided me with the directions to the entrance of Park Guell though. I was in awe when I got there but I was late! My ticket had expired. Luckily, the guys at the entrance were understanding and let me in without charging me for the second time. I spent 2 hours in that spectacular park. I could stay there for ages!
A few facts about Park Guell:
Parc Güell - The Park Güell (Catalan: Parc Güell) is a public park system which consists of gardens and architectonic elements located on Carmel Hill, in Barcelona, Catalonia in Spain. Carmel Hill belongs to the mountain range of Collserola – the Parc del Carmel is located on the northern face. Park Güell is located in La Salut, a neighborhood in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. With urbanization in mind, Eusebi Güell assigned the design of the park to Antoni Gaudí, a renowned architect and the face of Catalan modernism. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site under "Works of Antoni Gaudí". Park Güell is the reflection of Gaudí's artistic plenitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase (first decade of the 20th century). During this period, the architect perfected his personal style through inspiration from organic shapes. He put into practice a series of new structural solutions rooted in the analysis of geometry. To that, the Catalan artist added creative liberty and an imaginative, ornamental creation. Starting from a sort of baroquism, his works acquire a structural richness of forms and volumes, free of the rational rigidity or any sort of classic premises. In the design of Park Güell, Gaudí unleashed all his architectonic genius and put to practice much of his innovative structural solutions that would become the symbol of his organic style and that would culminate in the creation of the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family (Catalan: Sagrada Familia).
All in all, it was definately worth getting lost to get to that park! The history behind it is very interesting along with the visuals of nature in all its glory with some stunning houses, walkways and statues... This is a must see! Only 400 people are let in at a time, so I do suggest getting tickets in advance. Utterly unique and extraordinary!
Sagrada Familia was my next destination. I couldn't find my way to it!
I decided to use public transport as my sighstseeing bus was gone and the taxis weren't available. I hardly made it to get there. I had a ticket which I bought online and if I hadn't used it on that day, I wouldn't have been able to enter the next day.
I got there just before it closed. So, I really didn't see enough of Sagrada Familia. I will have to come back to admire it more. I walked back to my street where I came across Place de Catalunya with many interesting shops. I ended up shopping and having dinner at 11pm in my hotel's toproof restaurant. I got a free glass of sangria from the waiter who was a manager of the restaurant. It was nice of him but it was really strong so that I could hardly make it back to my bedroom.
I prebooked a tour on a motorbike with a Spanish local who was going to show me around the city in the morning. I went to a place where we were going to meet but nobody turned up. It was a shame as I had already paid for that experience. Anyway, I always try to look on the brightside even if I am lost or something doesn't go the way I want it. So, I decided to walk back to the main street and explore La Rambla and some other parts of Barcelona nearby my street. I had another experience booked for 4pm - a photoshoot with another local in El Gotic. I had to go back to the hotel to change into a red dress which was ideal for the photoshoot in Spain. So, after having seen La Rambla and Place de Catalunya one more time, I headed back to my hotel to get ready. I was relieved that I could use a taxi to go to the photoshoot. At least I thought it would get me there on time. I was wrong! I almost got there but the cab couldn't drop me off at the exact address as there was a demonstration and some riots. The taxi driver told me to just walk past it as if nothing was happening and hope that it would be alright. I ran in my long evening dress and I got to some square where there was a cathedral of Barcelona. I couldn't find the studio though. So, I called the guy and told him to come and find me. He was nice and did just that. He found me and didn't mind me being a bit late. Then my adventure started. He showed me some amazing streets of El Gotic - The Gothic Quarter. While we were walking, he was taking plenty of pictures of me. He told me many interesting stories about Barcelona's landmarks and the city itself. I loved his style and approach. It was really worth every $!!! I would definately do it again! Anyway, you can see some of the pictures in my photoblog below.
'El Gothic' - The Gothic Quarter tour consisted of a walk along the most famous streets in that area. It started nearby my photographer's studio. The Gothic Quarter is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to the Ronda de Sant Pere. It is a part of Ciutat Vella district. The quarter encompasses the oldest parts of the city of Barcelona, and includes the remains of the city's Roman wall and several notable medieval landmarks. Much of the present-day fabric of the quarter, however, dates to the 19th and early 20th centuries. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area, along with the former Sinagoga Major. The Barri Gòtic retains a labyrinthine street plan, with many small streets opening out into squares. Most of the quarter is closed to regular traffic although open to service vehicles and taxis.
My tour guide showed me:
The façade of the Barcelona Cathedral: constructed between 1882 and 1913 by Josep Oriol Mestres and August Font Carreras with a profusion of Gothic-style elements.
Building of the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya (English: Hiking Center of Catalonia) on Carrer Paradís: work by Lluís Domènech Montaner carried out in 1922 on a building of uncertain origins, to which he added Gothic windows, battlements, and merlons.
The Flamboyant-style bridge that crosses Carrer Bisbe between the Palau de la Generalitat and the Cases dels Canonges: newly constructed 1928 by Joan Rubió.
Casa Padellàs: currently the Barcelona City History Museum headquarters, the building was built circa 1500 on Carrer Mercaders, but it was moved to the Plaça del Rei in 1931 with its interior rebuilt.
Aguilar Palace: present-day Museu Picasso (Carrer Montcada ), restored by Adolf Florensa in 1959, who added galleries with arches and Gothic windows.
Pignatelli Palace: present-day Royal Artistic Circle of Barcelona, restored in 1970.
some beautiful souvenir shops and many amazing streets of El Gotic including its graffiti
On my 4th day, I did some shopping and discovered the rest of the landmarks which included: Casa Mila, Monjuic Park, La Barceloneta Beach, El Born, Arc de Triomf, Gaudi House Museum, Magic Fountain of Monjuic, FC Barcelona Museum and Casa Batillo. I hired a man who showed me everything by giving me a ride on his bike. It was just like a cab but it could get into all the narrow streets so that I could see much more. I think I paid him too much but it was worth it :)
I went to a workshop regarding syntax and the process of learning. Famous speakers took part in it including Chomsky. It was utterly inspirational.
Day 5 - 8 -> A trip to Seville :)
After a successful and interesting adventure in Barcelona it was time to board a plane to get to Seville where my friends live. I haven't seen them for 6 years. It was lovely to have seen them again. They gave me a warm welcome and let me have a beautiful room in their Spanish hacienda. I really enjoyed staying there and most of all seeing my friends. My friend Raquel showed me her city on the 1st and 2nd day. We also went to a Spanish party which was very different from Western style parties. It is called a Spanish ferria. Apparently each city organises 'la ferria' in the summer and everyone comes to have fun there. It kind of looks like a market as there are many tents everywhere and each of them has a name. People usually book the tents in advance and each tent has a separate party. There is also an enormous tent in the middle where there are some major performances eg. flamenco dance, singing etc. Everyone can join 'la ferria' even if you don't have a ticket or an invitation. We actually ended up joining some random tent and a guy who was a leading singer asked me to dance with him. It was so funny.
Apart fromm discovering Seville and partying, we went to a few restaurants and had a bbq at my friend's house. My friends did their best to introduce me to every popular food and delicacy in Spain. I have tasted snails and even a bull! Overall, I had an amazing time! My last day was spent at Barcelona airport. I had to wait a few hours for my next flight. I spent my time browsing, shopping and savouring Iberian ham sandwich.
Thank you my lovely folks. Te quiero mucho! Raquel, Rosa y toda la familia de Seville. Nos vemos!
Hotel in Barcelona: Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona GL
Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 68, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
The Kiss - graffiti in Barcelona
Barceloneta and W8 Hotel in the background.
Park Guell - mosaics
Flowers in Park Guell
El Gotic - The Gothic Quarter
Parliament of Spain - buildings
Seville - city centre with my Sister Raquel
Spanish party in Seville - la ferria
Cathedral de Barcelona
My tour looked like this...
Sculpture 'Face' in Barceloneta
Another sculpture - Face
Casa Mila - La Pedrera
Gaudi's house in Park Guell - window
Gaudi's house situated in Park Guell
The Hill which I found randomly while looking for the entrance to Park Guell