One of my college friends was taking a 6 month jaunt around Europe after graduating from grad school and invited me to join her. After a long few minutes of deliberation, I started looking at tickets and two weeks later I was on a plane heading to Barcelona.
My Spain trip started in beautiful Barcelona. I had heard a lot of hype about Barcelona and honestly it lived up to it. Great food, beautiful beaches, & a great night life, Barcelona really had it all. My only problem with Barcelona was that I only had three days here. I basically spent all three at the beach but that wasn't enough. Coming from Boston where we only get a few months out of the year where you can go to the beach and maybe not freeze to death in the water, when I visit a nice beach like the ones in Barcelona, I never want to leave!
Sam did manage to get me away from the beach long enough for us to visit La Familia Sagrada, Gaudi's house, La Boqueria Mercat, & for me to try paella for the first time (a.k.a. the moment I developed a paella addiction). Barcelona was also the first place I drank sangria and much like the paella, would be a very frequent reoccurrence during the trip.
After a three hour train ride, we arrived in Madrid and admittedly I was sad at first to be away from the beach but in the end Madrid won me over. Neither of us really like tours but in an attempt to actually see & learn something about Madrid, we joined a free walking tour. I wish I could remember the guide's name because he was so informative and funny, definitely recommend jumping on one of these tours if you ever find yourself in Madrid. We also ended up doing tapas tour and bar crawl with the same company which were both also fantastic.
Not only was this my first time in Madrid but also my first time staying in a hostel. We stayed in Cat's Hostel and couldn't have been more happy with it. We didn't have any problem with the other people in our room and it was so easy to meet fellow travelers at the hostel bar. They even host a bar crawl which was one of the funnest nights I had on the whole trip!
From Madrid we took a day trip (via train) to the city of Toledo. Before this trip, when I thought of Spain I pictured old cities, small stone streets, & dated buildings, little did I know I was picturing Toledo the whole time. As we navigated the small, winding (and often steep) streets of Toledo, we popped in and out of shops selling various knick knacks and antiques, and visited a few of the museums (Sam's favorite being the museum of torture (Weirdo...))
The last leg of the trip brought us to Valencia. The vibe here was a lot more laid back & relaxed than Madrid & Barcelona which was nice because we were running out of steam by this point in the trip. The AirBnb we stayed in was my favorite place we stayed the whole trip because it was on this beautiful street lit up by golden lamps at night and in the morning there was a market downstairs with a guy playing some relaxing music loud enough for us to hear.
We were running out of days and one of the last things left on our list was to go to a Flamenco show. We had passed on a couple earlier in the trip because they were more expensive and seemed less authentic and more touristy. Luckily, Sam found a small bar doing a Flamenco night for $12 a person (including a drink), score! I had never seen Flamenco before & at first found it to be some kind of weird interpretive tap dance but quickly fell in love with it & was in awe at the passion and intensity of the singers & dancers.
One of my favorite parts of Valencia was the river park -- running through most of the city is a dry river which is now a series of walking/biking paths & parks. One part of the river walk is home to a group of some of the coolest buildings I've ever seen in person; the museum of science, the museum of art, & the aquarium.
I absolutely loved my time in Spain and am gonna miss the beaches, sangria, paella, & people so much!