We just arrived home from our two weeks in Spain and amid the piles of laundry to be completed, the thousands of pictures to be sorted and the jet lagged shuffling around a home I haven’t seen in what feels like ages I’ve tried to take a first stab at recounting our trip! There are SO many wonderful experiences, sights, sounds, smells and tastes to write about I feel like it will take me weeks to get anything complied that would do the trip justice! I didn’t even know where to start until a friend of mine posted on my Facebook this morning that he’s thinking of visiting a few cities in Spain that I had just seen and wanted a review. Nothing like a kick in the pants to get you started hey!
Below is my VERY rough trip outline of what we did just so I can get some order to the days. The most wonderful thing about vacation is that you just loose track of the days! If it weren’t for train and cathedral ticket entry times I would never have known what time it was either! I’ll be going back and filling in more about the little places we saw, providing pictures and recipes for the amazing dishes we experienced and now will be cooking straight time at home!
I’ll be posting pictures and updating with more detail, hyperlinks and information once I get the time to sort and sleep! 🙂
Two Weeks in Spain: The road… VERY traveled!
It was delightful to spend two whole weeks and I have to say we saw QUITE a bit of the country! Traveling by plane, train and automobile we were able to experience both the modern Madrid, the historic sights, cities, towns, highways, streets that a smart car could barely navigate,
4/25- 5/1 Leave Seattle/ Arrive Madrid in the afternoon. We saw: Royal Palace (€10 + €3 audio guide , took about 1-2 hours), Plaza Mayor, Naval Museum (€free, 1 hour), El Rastro, Museo del Jamon (great cheap eats and drinks), Tried to see a Bullfight, Mercado de San Miguel, Churros con Chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines.
4/30 Train to Toledo for the day to see the Cathedral (€10 includes a trip up the Bell Tower and sold in the shop across from the cathedral. We spend a 2-3 hours wandering around gazing at the detail and grander!! This is a MUST see. The Cathedral was just breath taking and literally the most incredible cathedral I’ve ever seen! We used the Rick Steves book as our guided tour and it gave great info and background to what we were seeing. The extra €3 to get the ticket that included a trip up to the Bell Tower was SO worth it! The Cathedral took more than 250 years to build and is an incredible mix of styles which include Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical aspects. It was so interesting to see all the different styles built upon and into each other over the hundreds of years it took and multiple architects and designers working on such a masterpiece. TRULY breath taking!
In all, Madrid was nice to see and for hindsight purposed I’m glad we flew in here first to give us some perspective on how different each part of the country can be! This was actually my least favorite city of all that we visited. Even though they are officially in a recession and you would think that outside tourism would be a good thing, everyone seemed quite “in inconvenienced” to have to deal with foreigners even though we spoke Spanish to them. If you wanted to see the city, rent a flat instead of a hotel since there are so many great little Supermercados (bodegas/corner markets) that you can get food at and all flats have small kitchens with fridges. We made most breakfasts at home, snacked through lunch and would grab a few bites and sangria at various tapas restaurants we passed. If I had a do over, I’d stay 3 days in Madrid. This would give you enough time to get a feel for the city and see the sights.
5/1 Train Seville (2.5 hours ride). Check in at the apartment. 10pm Flamenco Show at Los Gallos (€30 ticket includes one drink, 2 hours long), Drinks at the roof top bar on the EME Cathedral Hotel (€10/drink but the view and experience is just incredible)
5/2 Explore Seville. We saw: Cathedral & Giralda Bell Tower (€8, took us 1 hour-ish), Alcazar (€8.50 +€3.60 audio-guide, took us 3 hours), lunched at Antiguedades Bar (very inexpensive, great location, excellent service and English menu also)
This is a MUST SEE city in my book! We had a day and a half but I could have done two full days or even a leisurely third. The sights and history are wonderful to leisurely take in. We stayed more on the outskirts of the city but it was such a delightful 25 minute walk through the narrow streets into the heart of the city. We also found a cafe, Antiguedades Bar, located half a block from the Cathedral which served THE BEST ratatouille I’ve EVER HAD! We wound up eating lunch AND dinner there! There’s an incredible roof top bar at the EME Cathedral Hotel that overlooks the cathedral there and it’s seriously stunning views! You will feel like you are on a New York rooftop bar, yet you’ll be gazing at a historic cathedral! The Flamenco Show at Los Gallos was a perfect way to spend our first night in Seville. Great seating, smaller venue which made you feel like you were truly part of the show! It was a full two hours and each “act” showcased a new set of performers which was so much fun to see the different types and styles of dance. VERY quality show!
5/3 Check out of Seville, pick up rental car at train station and drive a few hours to Gibraltar and hang out with monkey’s for the day! Since this is a British Territory, the Cable Car to the top was £9.75. We didn’t do any of the nature walks or caves, but those included supervised interaction with the monkey’s. In light of time, we opted to simply explore and while we didn’t hold them, we got MIGHTY close! Lunch at The Cannon Bar, awesome English pub serving up truly authentic dishes with a great staff!! Wish I’d gotten my mushy peas, but the bar tender was so sweet to throw in some extra chips for us and let me know where to pick up my mushy peas! Great lunch spot! Then, back in the car for the 2 hour exit due to traffic leaving Gibraltar. Lovely drive for a few hours up the coast to Granada.
Seeing Gibraltar was fun and if you have the time to see it and the weather is nice, I suggest making the trip. It was nice to get a different perspective from the car versus taking a train, also I don’t think that this part of our trip would have been possible without renting a car. You’d better be quite comfortable with a manual since that’s all they drive over there but the roads were not hard to navigate and we had our iphone with international data so we used the turn-by-turn map feature and it was a great asset to us the entire trip.
5/3 Check in, find food then fall into bed
5/4 Toodle around the city until our 5pm check-in at Alhambra. Get ticket ahead of time! We got the “General Daytime Visit” (visita diurna general) which cost €13 and enabled us to see the Palacios Nazaries. Also saw the Cathedral (€3.50, one hour), Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are buried (€3.50, hour), San Nicolas Viewpoint (Mirador de San Nicolas) which is a free lookout point accessible from the city via footpath. That night we had a 10:30pm departure for the overnight train to Barcelona.
This is a must see stop if you have a day or two. The city is great; it’s got a fun, younger vibe and the Alhambra is a must see sight. I didn’t really feel like this was a “foodie” as the other places we visited, not a downer just an observation. If you get a chance to get to the other side of the city and see the look out point it gives you a GREAT view of the city and the Alhambra and there are awesome steps winding down through the city to get you back downtown. (Thanks for the tip Rick Steves!) Also, this is the city where I discovered Bimba & Lola! They have wonderful clothes, BAGS, and jewelry!
5/5 – 5/6 Arrive at 9:30am, headed to where sister/brother-in-law were staying and happened upon the ApartmentsinBarcelona.net office and booked the next two nights lodging at the Tiradors Studio apartment which turned out to be fantastic! We saw: La Boqueria Market, Maritime Museo(€10, one hour guided audio tour of the Titanic exhibit, Columbus Monument (€free, at the waterfront), W Hotel Rooftop lounge at Sunset, Casa Mila Exterior (Gaudi), Parc Guell (€free, excellent walk from Las Ramblas, took about 2 hours to walk, see park and meander back, Sagrada Familia (€12.50, GET TICKET AHEAD of time at most La Caixa ATM branches. You can get advance tickets and it’s only about €15 with the printing charge and will save you HOURS in the line, plan on spending an hour here),
The overnight train was an “experience” but a pretty efficient way to travel! DON’T cab from the train station to the city, you’ll get the foreigner price double! The subway is SUPER easy to take and will drop you ANYWHERE in the city quickly and price efficiently. I would suggest 3 days for Barcelona. If you wanted to see MANY sights and tootle around the city longer you could do up to 5 days but I feel like you’d be able to see sights and get the feel of the culture in 3ish. If you’re there a few days and plan to se all the sights get the 10 trips card which will give you a discount. We have an AWESOME group we worked with to get a last minute reservation for an apartment to rent. (can get you their contact info) They have a bunch of locations, all of them are really nice and so affordable and the people were just great to work with! I will NEVER go to Barcelona without building in a trip to Sitges… read on!!!
5/7 – 5/9 Leave Barcelona on afternoon train (€3.50, 30 minute trip) to Sitges. Arrive, walk three blocks to the amazing Hotel Galeon, check in, use the drink cards they gave us for a complimentary two glasses of Cava (Spain’s Prosecco) at their sister location, the beach front Hotel Pltajador where we spent the next two nights in a water front AMAZING room!
5/10 Get up early, and sadly prepare to leave an INCREDIBLE COUNTRY!!!! If you’re heading straight to the airport like we were, there is a convenient bus that cost €5.60 and takes a direct 30 minute trip to the airport. One bus departs per hour.
Sitges was a GEM to find! We happened upon it in the Rick Steves book and a few days at a beach town sounded like a perfect way to end our vacation time. MAKE time to visit!!! It’s an AWESOME little city right on the best. Think old town charm meets ultimate beach destination: Venice/Manhattan Beach California esque. It’s sleepy, incredibly welcoming, clean, relaxing, and the people are JUST wonderful! Thanks to reading up on Trip Advisor reviews, we booked our first of three nights at the Hotel Galeon then moved to their sister hotel (which was #1 on TripAdvisor), the Hotel Pltajador and enjoyed an AMAZING and so affordable water view room for the remaining two nights of our beach town getaway. We didn’t see any sights since this was our relax and decompress time of the trip. The boardwalk hugging the beach the water provided a delightful 3 mile walk to stretch our legs and enjoy the weather. Incredible little city!!!
Sitges: Lux Restaurant Review
We also discovered an awesome little bar which had just opened three weeks prior to our visit named Lux. After wandering Sitges for over an hour, sight seeing turned into the walk that was fueled by a NEED to find food. We are what you might call detailed eaters. We know what we like and we’ll wait until we get it which happened in this case! Passing up multiple little bars and restaurants that just didn’t quite “draw us in” Lux was the the ultimate gem to find! Martin, the young and very entrepreneurial owner, was the only one working when we walked in. The menu really cinched our decision to stop and even though he wasn’t serving food at the time, he happily “whipped” us up a few salads and some small plates that were JUST divine!! While we loved tapas and can’t get enough, it was nice to see a menu that was traditional but very different offering fresh salads, inventive small plates and an array of drinks and beverages. Upon walking into the modern yet comfortable space we loved the atmosphere. First order of business, ordering a pitcher of sangria and let me tell you, that sangria was GOOD! We ordered guac and chips (which were playfully served with nacho flavored tortilla chips), the traditional Bread with tomato the tropical salad (served with lettuce, pineapple, salmon, tomato, sweet corn) and the tuna salad (served with (lettuce, tuna, tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, boiled egg, carrot, asparagus) that I still DREAM about!! The ingredients were SO fresh!!
View my Pintrest Tapas Board with recipes below:
Bread with tomato
Grilled Eggplant in Tomato Vinaigrette Recipe – Berenjena con Vinagreta
Pimientos de Padron
Tortilla de Pata
Anchovies Marinated in Vinegar Recipe – Boquerones en Vinagre
Spanish Onion Relish Recipe – Salsa de Cebolla
Pisto Manchego (Spanish Ratatouille)
Pickled Anchovies w/Stuffed Olives
Tuna Salad (Lux Style)
Piquillo Pepper Stuffed w/ White Tuna
Spanish Mushrooms, Peppers and Garlic Recipe – Champinones, Pimientos y Ajo
Jamon y Pan
Mushrooms with Garlic and White Wine (Setas con Ajo y Vino Blanco)
Pasta Elias: Olive Paste Spread with Garlic (Tapenade)
Olive Tapenade: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/BLACK-OLIVE-TAPENADE-1240439
- Learn the following of the native language before traveling: Study menu’s to learn the words (especially if you have food allergies) and become familiar with the cuisine, numbers, study their currency, how to order your coffee or tea
- Research any local festivals or events before you book your travel, this could be either wonderful to see or a hassle to find lodging
- If you have an iphone, get intl. data and use it for maps and info
- Use vacuum sealed bags for packing! These ITW Space Compressible Bag BVacuum-Seal Travel Roll Bags, Set of 4 will GREATLY help your packing efficiency especially if you pick anything up along the way! 🙂
- Take a tour book! We used and loved the Rick Steves’ Spain 2012 and LOVED It!! These will provide background, history, walking tours, lodging and dining suggestions
- Flat Iron: Turboion Baby Croc Professional Dual Voltage Mini Travel Flat Iron, Black, 5/8 Inch
This is the BEST little travel flat iron! It doesn’t need a converter (just a plug adapter), heats up QUICKLY, and has it’s own little handy heat pad so you can pack it up/let it cool without worrying about burning anything down!