Here’s what I love most about our recent travels. Post-Asia, we have never made the conscious decision to venture outside the US with complete free reign on where to go. All of our trips over the past year were opportunities given to us by friends. We’ve had the chance to explore their incredible ‘hometowns’ (using that term loosely) from the jungle to the desert to the big city. Spain was a bonus: With us heading across the pond to celebrate the wedding of two of our closest friends in London, we decided to tie in a few days in the land of tapas, bronzed skin, and Messi.
I don’t know if we’re becoming more price-conscious and willing to do anything to save a few bucks, or desensitized to the ridiculousness of our recent travel itineraries, but this one involved four flights to get to Barcelona. The Upside: We saved $800 and had a nonstop – imagine that! – flight home from London the morning after the wedding. The Downside: That many flights across multiple carriers coupled with our luck meant we were definitely in for some type of travel snafu. After all, we’re the people that for no fault of our own got stuck in dodgy Johannesburg for two extra days with nothing but the clothes on our backs (even better, the same set of clothes we’d camped in for the past week) while we waited at the mercy of the airlines to get us home. We’re also the people that spent a combined 33 hours at the Dubai and Dulles airports thanks to delays and hefty layovers (I can give great advice on setting up a makeshift bedroom/office right at your gate – convenient!). So what would it be this time?
Jake’s bag. By flight #4, it had gone missing. With zero time to file a claim as we were running to catch our last leg and all three airlines pointing fingers at each other as to who lost it (via Twitter no less – the only option for communication without cell service), we were losing hope we would ever see the contents of his closet again (wouldn’t be the first time). So, with that, we arrived in Barcelona. Me, excited and ready for some Spanish wine, Jake, yet again in a foreign country with one outfit.
Truth: Spain was never on the top of my travel list. I saw myself in Istanbul or Santorini or without question – Krakow (given my roots and the fact that we’ve been in talks about a visit for years now) before Barcelona.
What was I thinking?! I’m so thankful we followed the advice of friends and my sister (who was there weeks before us) rather than my instincts. Spain has everything that makes me happy: History, culture, gorgeous architecture, my favorite foods (namely manchego cheese and $15 bottles of cava, readily available at all times of day), beautiful, welcoming people with a zest for life…
It was apparent after night #1 that the Barcelonians operate on a slightly different schedule than we’re used to. Dinner at 11:30 pm followed by drinks at 2 am, clubs by 3, and a 7 am nightcap at at McDonald’s – seemingly the only place open before mid-morning on the weekends. (I’ll use that as my excuse as to why we had to dine there. For breakfast. We were just starting our day when everyone else awake at that hour was finishing the previous one.) Aside from the clubgoers making their way home, the streets were empty on Saturday morning… until we ventured over to Sagrada Familia, where we found the rest the tourists. I’d place bets there were at least 500 people in line to see the inside of this famous church. Poor schmucks. No one must have told them to buy tickets online and skip the 3 hour line.
Call me crazy but I’m not a huge fan of Gaudi, the architect who designed Sagrada Familia and a number of other famous buildings in Barcelona. I found the outside of the church to be downright ugly. (Gasp! Sorry to all who have raved about his work to me.) It reminded me of a really poorly constructed sand castle. But the inside… spectacular.
So was the view from the towers. (Which you only get a glimpse of here – but its the view in my first pic up top.)
The staircase down. (Although this is taken from the bottom up.) Spot the tiny face and camera in the center? A little friend from Hong Kong we met on the climb down. His repeated hiyaaa!‘s were undeniably HK. He shared my love of taking photos of the spiraling steps. I’m assuming my tiny head moonlights in almost all of his pics too.
Having checked off the only tourist attraction on our list for the day, it was time to do what we do best. Nap. And then feast. We headed over to the Gothic Quarter to drink cava (same idea as champagne or prosecco), people watch, and snap 137 pics of stunning old buildings, none of which did the scene any sort of justice. But here are a few for the heck of it.
With the sun BLAZING down on us – it was uncharacteristically hot at nearly 100 degrees – the beach was calling. After a quick pitstop in H&M to add swim trunks to Jake’s scant set of belongings, a jaunt down Las Ramblas and into La Boqueria (a huge covered market) to arm ourselves with more food and drink, and an unplanned tour of the harbor, we were …lost. But, we spotted our favorite type of transportation – a rickshaw – with a far too good looking pedalist behind the helm. ‘To the nude beach, sir!’ (Think he knew we were tourists?) Minutes later, we stationed ourselves on the sand to take in the sun (still shining at 7 pm), the sea, and the overabundance of skin.
Sorry, no exposed women in sight.
Day Two. I was set on on getting to Montserrat, a mountain-top monastery accessible by train and cable car. While we got a later start than intended – that love of naps and an urgent need for a restroom while in the station set us back a good four hours – we arrived well rested and totally awed by the view:
Gorgeous place that I would definitely recommend seeing IF you’re capable of getting there and back efficiently. After three hours of taking in the views, we squeezed in to the cable car and arrived at the station with minutes to spare before the 4:40 train back to Barcelona. Hot, tired and hungry, we were desperate to get back. As the train approached, I did think it was odd it was facing the opposite way of the city… but the outward pushiness that became necessary in HK when it comes to public transport kicked in and after shoving aside a few other couples, we made it onto the train first. Ain’t karma a bitch. Once we finished doing our happy dance we realized we were the ONLY people on the train. Yea…. we were headed in the wrong direction. The silver lining? This train would finish out its route and then turn back. So while we added yet ANOTHER hour onto our journey, at least we’d be guaranteed all the seats we wanted…
After one more meal (which happened to be my favorite of the trip – Cuidad Condal – be prepared to WAIT!), we packed up my bag and headed to the airport. Where surprise, surprise, we were reunited with its other half, just in time for the next flight to Palma on the island of Majorca.
I didn’t know what to expect from Majorca. When we booked it, I had visions of serene, Thailand-like beaches. Then I found out the best beaches were on the other side of the island, hours away from Palma, and would likely be crowded in the summer months. Rachel hadn’t loved Majorca, so as we flew in, I braced myself to be disappointed.
I was anything but. At the risk of sounding like a huge dork (likely already have anyway), it was love at first sight. That being said, I am convinced that where you stay in Palma has a huge impact on your impressions of the city. So my advice – stay in the old portion of the city near the cathedral. And stay in the Posada Terra Santa. I was a wee bit obsessed with our hotel and its beautiful staff. And when I say beautiful I mean, it was impossible not to blush or stumble on my words when around them. (Although that’s nothing new for me.) This was one of the most puzzling, and somewhat comical things we found about Spain: From the woman greeting us at the hotel to the man restocking the vending machines in the bus station to the one scooping up our gelato … let’s just say there was a lot of blushing going on.
The castle and cathedral. The whole of Old Town is just stunning. (I swear this does is no justice.) Half the time I walked around dazed, feeling I was in a scene from a children’s fable.
Moving on. Since the so-called best beaches were not right in Palma, we decided to take Rachie’s advice and hop aboard a sailboat for a day. We took a bus over to Puerto Pollenca and boarded the Tudor Dawn, owned by two of the loveliest people we met on this trip. (English, of course! It was time to attempt to refine my American accent.) We sailed, swam and snorkeled to our hearts’ content. Awesome day.
For our last full day in Majorca, I really wanted to get out and see the northern part of the island. I had read great things about the various towns there – Valldemossa, Deia and Soller. Given our success with the public bus system the day before, why not give it another go? We had to choose ONE town though. Jake left it up to me… I left it up to the app I can’t live without: Coin Flip. Valldemossa it was!
For once, I was speechless, taking in the beauty of this tiny old town and plotting how to break it to Jake that we weren’t getting on the next bus home. (Or the next, or the next.) We ran all over that town for two hours, snap happy and choosing which house we’d buy in retirement. I settled on the first one below, for what its worth.
Really, no more to report on Valldemossa other than GO if you get the chance.
And with that, it was adios to Spain and hello to London and some of our favorite people in the world. And that’s where the photo story ends, as time was better spent with them than behind the camera!
Much love to Bec, Will, Neal, Clare, Jane, Rowan, Jack, Mel, Anmol and Milan. Wish I had captured more of your lovely faces but you’re all in my memories!More of Our Travel