Spain Part One
This year, I took my very first international trip to.... Spain!
This was by far the biggest trip of the year. I’ve always known that I wanted to make international trips happen, but I just never had the funds or travel partners until now. Spain is somewhere that I’ve always known was beautiful and fun, but I never thought a lot about going there the way I have some other places.
Andrew and some friends had been keeping their eye on Scott’s Cheap Flights for an opportunity to do a group trip, and Barcelona showed up on the list for late May 2019. Flights out of Atlanta were around $500 per person. I was asked if I wanted to join, and I went for it! At the time, I didn’t even have a passport, but I knew I would find a way to make it work. We ended up deciding to spend a few days in Barcelona and then road tripping to Bilbao in Basque country.
Given how long my two-day Asheville recap was, I’m going to try to pick some overall highlights of the trip and work other experiences into additional posts. Reading nine recaps from each day we were there wouldn’t be fun for anyone.
Here are a few of my must-do activities and experiences:
Gothic District - The first day of our trip, Andrew and I got to walk around the city with our friend Laura. We were waiting on a couple of other friends to get in, so we decided to walk around the Gothic District. It felt like a maze, except filled with cute restaurants, cafes, bookstores, cathedrals, and more. All of these things are nestled in narrow, sand-colored alleyways. This was my first impression of Spain, and really, international travel as a whole. All I could think while walking around was, “Everything I look at is beautiful.” From the architecture to the food to the people walking around, I was awestruck. I love my home, but I’d never been anywhere so picturesque. We managed to stop in a few shops and grab some coffee at Satan’s Coffee Corner. It was a great way to get a feel for the city and start off the trip.
Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia - I remember fading pretty quickly after everyone arrived at the Airbnb. Andrew and I went out for tapas, but the jetlag was hitting me hard. So, I was excited to start the next day a huge Barcelona draw, Gaudi architecture! Gaudi’s work is original, interesting, and I mean this in the best possible way, Seussian. Park Guell definitely had the Dr. Seuss vibe at least. Gaudi used colors and curved angles galore. All of his buildings are unlike anything else in the world.
La Sagrada Familia was overwhelmingly impressive. We opted for the audio tour and going up the towers, and I highly recommend doing both of those things if you decide to visit. Walking up on La Sagrada Familia is impressive enough in itself just because it’s so detailed and so enormous. I had done a little research before our trip on it, but I didn’t understand how big it was until I was actually there. The audio tour gives a lot of great information on Gaudi’s inspiration for the outside as well as the interior. The stained glass is positioned so that the sun hits it at certain points in the day. One side features more pastel pink and purple morning light colors. It gradually fades to the other side of the church which has deep reds and oranges meant to resemble a sunset. Gaudi thought of everything.
The view of Barcelona from the towers is breathtaking, if not a little terrifying for people who are afraid of heights (me). Fun fact, there is an elevator that takes you up the tower, but you’re on your own with the stairs for the way down. I loved it though. It felt like I was in the spiral staricase of a fairytale tower. The most interesting part of La Sagrada Familia is that it’s not finished yet. It’s been under construction for almost 100 years. Completion is scheduled for 2021. I’ll have to go back and see!
Girona - Andrew and I decided to do a solo day trip to a nearby medieval town called Girona. We are Game of Thrones fans and we knew that some of the series had been filmed in Spain, so Andrew found out that one spot, Girona, was only about a 45 minute train ride from Barcelona. After some McDonalds at the train station, we set off! Side note, McDonalds’ in Spain sell beer. Personally, I think the U.S. should take note.
Girona was the coolest. Andrew and I both have a thing for very old architecture, artifacts, what have you. The older it is, the more amazing. Old town Girona looked exactly like a medieval town in the movies, Game of Thrones, etc. I’ve been to several renaissance faires and they had to be modeled off of Girona. Andrew and I walked through the Cathedral, parts of which have been around since the 1000s.
We also visited the Basilica and walked all around the town wall that used to guard the city. We found several places that were used for GOT filming. We even found one by accident. See the photo below. We took this on our trip. Shortly after getting back home, we decided to watch GOT and this episode with Arya in Braavos was the one we picked. This is the exact spot that they filmed her in when she was blind and trying to become one of the faceless men. How cool is that?! We nerded out hardcore.
We also managed to find a cute bagel and beer shop near old town. I had a local Barcelona beer, which was delicious! I’m a beer fan, so I do like to hunt down locals whenever I can.
Road trip - After the Girona trip, I unfortunately started feeling bad. I’m pretty sure I caught this cold back home and brought it with me on the trip. I was very congested and gross, but it was road trip day! I felt so bad for everyone else because they were stuck in the car with a germy, sick person for five hours. They were very nice and understanding though. BIG travel tip, everyone: Take a ton of vitamin C for a couple weeks before your trip. I ended up getting over this pretty quick, but it would have been great not to have.
We took off from Barcelona and decided to avoid tolls on the way there. This meant a more scenic route. It was so different from what you’re used to seeing on a road trip in the U.S. Once again, everywhere you look is beautiful. Instead of endless gas stations and fast food restaurants, there are ruins of castles and churches that belonged to cities from hundreds of years ago. Part of the drive was through a relatively flat area, but then we got closer to the Pyrenees and started going through mountains and hills. We stopped by streams and lakes that had eggshell blue water. It looked so pure and clean.
If I hadn’t been sick and had to make it another few hours in a car, I would have found a way to jump in. This was just a great way to see the country and get a feel for what it’s really like outside of big cities. It might seem like a bit of a hassle, but I promise you will think it’s worth it.
That’s it for part one of the Spain trip! I’ll post another four about the Basque country part of the trip in a couple of days.