Road- Trip Through Spain

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Spain has always been on our bucket-list, especially mine (Liana), so we knew Spain would be a stop on our tour from the get-go. After reading some blogs and reviews we decided we would rent a car and road-trip through the country since we wanted to see the large cities and the small towns.  We visited 5 cities so we thought it best to talk about each one separately.

Barcelona:

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We came to Barcelona after London and we were very grateful for the sunshine and warmth that greeted us!  We finally pulled out our shorts, sunglasses, and put away the coats to explore this city and the beach that it sits on.

After wandering the city by foot for a couple days, we decided to rent a scooter to see more of it.  We decided to rent scooters which is always a good idea in a large city like this!  We got pulled over almost immediately for turning on a red light, which we didn’t know was illegal, but luckily the officer let us go.  We rode down to the beach and a neighboring city then headed back to explore the popular sights of Barcelona. After visiting all the major landmarks: Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Arc of Triumph, Gaudi’s houses, etc (which are all a must), we decided to end the day at Carmel Bunkers, which is a mountain at the rear of the city and watch the sunset.  It is a great spot to get a 360 view of the beautiful city all the way to the ocean. A bunch of young locals come up here to have picnics, dance and just watch the sunset. It was a cool experience and knowing that it was once used as a bunker to watch over the city and it’s safety made it even more special.  We stayed until the sun set in the horizon at the end of the ocean.

Where to stay:

  • We stayed in L’Eixample district, which is close to everything but was quiet at night. We usually book through Expedia (use this link to get a special discount).

Where to eat:

  • Restaurante Russo Souvenir
  • At the market

What to do:

  • Sagrada Familia- cathedral that’s been under construction for over 100 years
  • Casa Batllo- Gaudi’s creation
  • Rent a moped and explore the city- we had a good experience with- La Scooteria(40 Euros)
  • Stroll down La Rambla
  • Watch the sunset at El Carmel Bunkers
  • Arc de Triumph
  • Visit Gothic Quarter
  • La Pedrera- Casa Mila

Valencia:

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We loved the smaller feel of Valencia and the history of this city. Valencia oranges were named after this city since there are orange trees all over! The interesting thing is that the oranges in the city are not edible because when they were originally brought-in, their purpose was for the citrus scent they produced not their bitter flesh. Paella also originated in Valencia; we tried our first paella here and LOVED it, no wonder people go crazy over this stuff.

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The old town of Valencia (just like most European old towns) is super cute with narrow cobble streets lined with fun shops and restaurants. It’s very easy to get lost in the old town. Because of its medieval history, the city is shaped like a star making it very hard to remember which way to go.

We stayed in a small Airbnb right in the center of old town making it super easy to explore everything around. Mercado Central, one if the biggest markets in Europe, is the central market that has over a thousand stalls filled with delicious food and goods. Right across the street from the market is La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Market), this is where the silk merchants led their business during the 15th century. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The port area/beach is an awesome area to relax on their LARGE beach and get some fresh seafood. We ate at Casa Montana, one of the oldest restaurants in Valencia and is considered to have the best paella in town.

Where to stay:

  • Close to old town

Where to eat:

  • La Fabrica de Hielo (cool coffee shop on the beach)
  • Casa Montana

What to do:

  • Visit Casa De Dios
  • Mercado Central
  • La Lonja de la Seda

Granada

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Driving into the city we thought we had made a mistake by coming here. It looked like a huge industrialized city and not very pretty. Boy were we wrong! Once we go to our hotel, (Eurostar Alhambra) we fell in love. Our hotel was situated on the hill right next to the Alhambra Castle which was surrounded by trees and beautiful trails that led through the forest to the “old town”. We were in Granada for 4 days or so and since we didn’t book a palace tour in advance, we didn’t have a chance to see the inside (you need to book a month in advance online or pay 10x as much to go with a private tour).  We did however roam around the gardens and the palace grounds which were incredibly beautiful. The city had a lot of Moorish influence in its history, making the architecture here exceptionally beautiful.

One of the days we also went up to the gypsy town that is nestled in a hillside across from Al Hambra. It was really fun seeing how the gypsies have made a life in the cave-houses with very little building materials. There was also an amazing view of Alhambra and the rest of the city from here. Alex really wanted to see the inside of one of the cave houses so he paid one of the owner $1 to go into his house. They also just happened to have kittens, so I got to play with them!

Grenada quickly became one of our favorite Spanish cities.

Where to stay:

  • Eurostar Alhambra- nice hotel in an awesome area

Where to eat:

  • Kebabs! I think we ate these every day since they were everywhere

What to do:

  • Visit Alhambra
  • Visit Las Cuevas De Sacromonte (Gypsy village)
  • Explore Old-Town

 

Frigaliana

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On our way to Marbella, we decided to stop by Frigiliana because we heard it was beautiful. Frigiliana is a small, all-white town on the hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It was so picturesque and beautiful that we wished we were staying there for a few nights! The narrow cobble streets had designs in them that made the town even more charming. We took pictures everywhere and couldn’t believe how adorable it was. After having lunch here, we continued our journey to Marbella.

Marbella

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Our goal and purpose of going to Marbella was to relax and lounge by the beach and pool. Traveling can get tiresome so we always make it a goal to take a “vacation” from time-to-time. Marbella houses celebrities and some of richest people in the world making it a pretty exclusive city.

Puerto Banus is a really nice port in the city that has all the designer stores and nicer restaurants. It was fun to come out here in the evening for dinner and to people watch over a cup of coffee. We especially liked watching people come off of their yachts and head straight for the street vendors selling “good” knock-off hand bags, it was a sight to see.  Watching them haggle down the pour guy selling the bags and then climb back on their multi-million dollar yachts, it was dinner and a show. We stayed at the H10 hotel that had a huge pool with a resort feel to it. We spent our days sun-bathing, eating, and relaxing.

Where to stay:

  • Near Puerto Banus
  • Near the beach
  • H10 Hotel

Where to eat:

  • Anywhere on the boardwalk or in Puerto Banus

What to do:

  • Stroll down the waterfront boardwalk
  • Go shopping in Puerto Banus
  • Go swimming in the ocean
  • Relax and sun bath
  • Watch sunset from the golf-course

Seville

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The drive to Seville from Marbella was incredible! It was through the mountains that had crazy views of the ocean and the valleys below. We kept wanting to pull over to take pictures but had to limit the stops to about 5. Everyone kept telling us Seville is a must to visit and we’re so glad we took their advice. The city is full of history and charm and delicious food.

Christopher Columbus started his journeys from Seville and introduced this city to the spices and goods of the world, making a lasting impact on this city which can still be felt today in its wealth and pride. We went to visit 2 palaces while we were here: Alcazar and Palace of Duenas. Alcazar is a royal palace originally developed by the Moorish Muslim kings and Palace of Duenas currently belongs to the House of Alba. The Duchess of Alba had her wedding here a few years back and I can only imagine how beautiful it was! It was so HOT during the day while we were here that we had to come inside for a few hours until it cooled down during the evening. The walk along the river is especially amazing during sunset. We enjoyed coming here a few times.

Santa Cruz is the romantic quarter of Seville and is so charming! It is known for its VERY narrow alleys and ornate iron balconies. We would come here in the evenings to get lost in the candle lit alleys and walk off our dinner. This is also where we found our favorite tapas bar- Bodega Santa Cruz. The menu was all in Spanish so we had to guess and point to what we wanted. That’s always a good sign for us! Seville is full of rich history, delicious food, and friendly people!

Where to stay:

  • El Arenal (center of town but can get noisy at night)
  • Barrio Santa Cruz
  • La Macarena (a little outside of the center but a true Seville neighborhood feel).

Where to eat:

  • At any tapas bar!
  • Bodega Santa Cruz

What to do:

  • Visit Santa Cruz quarter
  • Visit Palace of Duenas
  • Alcazar
  • Spain Square
  • Watch sunset on the river walk
  • Metropol Parasol
  • Seville Cathedral

There were a few things that left lasting impressions on us after visiting Spain. Spaniards are family oriented, they’re loud and full of life, and it’s VERY hot in the summer.

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